QUEENS – Aigner chocolates, a popular Forest Hills store that closed earlier this year, will reopen next week under a new owner.
The store, located at 103-02 Metropolitan Ave., known for its homemade pistachio almond paste, cups of peanut butter and bunches of almonds, closed after the Aigner family, who ran the store for decades, decided to remodel it.
The family initially planned to reopen the store for its 85th birthday, but then decided to retire and sell it instead.
The shop was bought several weeks ago by Mark Libertini, 42, whose lifelong dream was to open a chocolate factory.
In August, Libertini, a trained pastry chef who also co-owns a grocery store in Midtown Manhattan, was in Forest Hills on an unrelated affair and spotted the store.
He wanted to buy chocolates for his fiancée, Rachel Kellner. But the store, which Libertini, who lives in Bayside, had never heard of before, has been closed.
When he saw the sign that he was for sale, he immediately sensed that maybe this was his chance to reach his goal.
Two weeks later he bought the store.
“It was just the perfect time and opportunity to move forward and take over the Aigners brand and build on their expertise,” said Libertini who will run the store with Kellner, 30.
Libertini said he plans to keep traditional recipes and follow the old way of making chocolates. The Aigners will remain involved during the first years to facilitate the transition and ensure the quality of the products.
The store was originally owned by Alfred Krause, a German chocolatier who opened it in 1930.
John Aigner, who learned the art of making chocolates in Austria, came to the United States in the 1950s with his wife and son, Peter. He got a job in the store and introduced many classic European recipes after buying it from Krause in 1960.
In 2009, the store’s name changed from Krause’s Candy Kitchen to Aigner Chocolates, but the owners continued to make everything from scratch using traditional machines, including a cream mixer, melter, and enrober, including some are six decades old.
“This is where the magic happens,” said Libertini who plans to keep the machinery.
“It’s not just a chocolate factory, it’s really a mini chocolate factory.”
He said he plans to keep the store name at first, although in the future he hopes to launch an additional brand, which will include “chocolate cards” for birthdays and other special occasions.
Chris Aigner, John’s grandson, said the family are confident the store is in good hands.
“We interviewed a lot of people and we turned a lot of people away,” Aigner said, adding that it was important for the family to find someone who would carry on their traditions.
“Mark was perfect and he’s really passionate about chocolate.”
The store, which is currently undergoing a decor remodel, is scheduled to reopen on October 22.